SPIC MACAY gears up for its international convention in Chennai

May15,2024


On May 20, when students from across the country will gather at IIT Madras for the seven-day international conference of Spic Mace (Society for Promoting Indian Classical Music and Culture among the Youth), the campus will transform into a place where art will become personally meaningful, not just through passive observation, but through dynamic and transformative interactions. These conferences are not just an escape from the constant cycle of deadlines, exams and the constant pursuit of excellence; They weave deep threads into the fabric of student life. Apart from creating a bridge between heritage and youth, they are life skills laboratories.

It all started in 1977, when Spice Mackey founder Kiran Seth, who was then an associate professor at IIT Delhi, led a cultural movement at the institute. He was keen to break the myth that the classical arts could not strike a chord with ignorant youth. Through its non-profit voluntary youth movement, which now has chapters nationwide and overseas, musicians are invited to perform, present lec-dems, and conduct workshops in colleges and schools. “We have to erase the divide between art and education. While pursuing my doctorate at Columbia University, I discovered how calming classical music can be. I wanted more students to experience this. They do not need to break ties with the past to secure their future,” insists Kiran Seth.

Bharatnatyam dancer Deepti Parol demonstrating poses to disabled children during the 'Natya Swastha' program (2017) organized by Spike McKay at Asha Kiran Special School, Kozhikode.

Bharatnatyam dancer Deepti Parol demonstrating poses to disabled children during the 'Natya Swastha' program (2017) organized by Spike McKay at Asha Kiran Special School, Kozhikode. , Photo Courtesy: Ramesh Kurup S

From the Dagar brothers' first concert at the IIT Delhi convocation with only five students in attendance to becoming a popular movement with year-round performances by veteran artistes and multiple teams of student volunteers, Spic helped sustain the momentum. Marks Mackay's 47-year journey. The spirit of youth.

Martial arts demonstration at Spic Mackey's craft fair in Madikeri.

Martial arts demonstration at Spic Mackey's craft fair in Madikeri.

At a time when influences are diverse and options are limitless, it is not easy for Kiran Seth to keep the movement going. “When we started, many of my colleagues, friends and relatives would often ask me why I was wasting my time play song. Spic Mackay has had to grapple with challenges that keep presenting themselves differently with changing times. When we started, many colleges and schools outright rejected the idea of ​​holding concerts on campuses. Some agreed, but on the condition that it would be held during extra-curricular classes. We still have a long way to go. We need more volunteers to run our activities and be in constant touch with the student communities,” he says.

Professor Kiran Seth stops in front of Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru during his cycle expedition from Kashmir to Kanyakumari

Professor Kiran Seth stopped in front of Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru during his cycle expedition from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Photo courtesy: Murali Kumar

Kiran Seth has been on an all India cycling campaign for the last two years. One of the objectives behind this trip is to create awareness about Spic Mackey and to recruit volunteers for this cultural mission.

Senior violinist GJR Krishnan calls Kiran Seth 'Yogi'. “His dedication towards this cause is unimaginable. I can never say 'no' to a performance by Spike McKay. Although I had to travel to Australia, I made sure that I did not miss my concert at the conference on May 22. I have learned the love for this movement from my father Lalgudi Jayaraman. “He enjoyed performing for students and would often start with some fun tunes before getting into the ragas,” says Krishnan.

Lalgudi GJR Krishnan to perform at IITM

Lalgudi GJR Krishnan to perform at IITM. Photo Courtesy: KV Srinivasan

From promoting classical arts, Spike Mackay has expanded over the years to include folk arts, yoga, crafts, intensive activities by writers, painters, social workers and environmentalists, heritage walks, theatre, screening of classics and holistic food. Has expanded its curriculum.

“Artists, institutions, sponsors and volunteers are the four pillars of the movement,” says Suman Dunga, vice president of Spice Macay. “The annual conference is our flagship event. We are expecting 1,300 students and volunteers to participate in the event at IITM, which has hosted the conference twice before (1996 and 2014). TCS is the main sponsor.

Padma Subramaniam has been associated with this movement for many years.

Padma Subramaniam has been associated with this movement for many years.

“We keep talking about connecting with youth to get the next generation involved in the arts. But no one has done it as successfully as Spike McKay,” says veteran Bharatnatyam dancer and scholar Padma Subramaniam. She will perform on the opening day of the conference in Chennai. “I have always been excited about performing for the youth. Interactive sessions are more entertaining because there is curiosity to learn. The honesty and innocence with which young people ask questions compels you to go to any extent to make them understand as per your understanding. They may not choose art, but when they step into the world armed with the knowledge of our culture, they will be able to move forward on a better life path.

Spike McKay Conferences are learning beyond the classrooms. Apart from being exposed to different musical genres, which enhances the cultural perspective of the students, it also improves their social and organizational skills. They learn to bond, adjust and express.

Experienced violinists take their young students with them to Spic Mackay concerts.

Experienced violinists take their young students with them to Spic Mackay concerts.

“They make you think about ways in which classical music can be made more accessible,” says violinist A Kanyakumari, who will perform at the conference. “Kiran Seth is doing a wonderful service to the art. Teams of volunteers make every possible effort to make the performers comfortable. This movement is not about money, it is completely about music. And thanks to Spike McKay, I have interacted with students in places where Carnatic music hardly has any presence. For example, I was in Nagaland recently and was amazed by the response of the youth there to my music. Whenever I have performed for Spice Mac, I come back energized and hopeful for a better tomorrow.”

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